From the TV advertisement of biscuits to the branding inside the lift to the press box at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle literally embody the fight in Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Needing to win every match since Saturday, the trio has scored 427 of the 434 runs accumulated by RCB in the last two games, the remaining seven runs coming from extras. A feat difficult to surpass, it proves how in the absence of a decent bowling attack they have decided to let their bats leave nothing to chance.
It also speaks of a bond that runs deeper than what meets the eye. A few days back, one of those feel-good sponsors’ events turned almost gloomy when de Villiers and Shane Watson were asked --- in the presence of Gayle --- where the Jamaican had gone wrong. Both looked crestfallen but de Villiers was quick to react. “Wow! Are you actually a journalist?” asked de Villiers in keeping with the fad of questioning journalists’ right to criticise.
Jumping to conclusion becomes a norm when he gets a string of single-digit scores and returns to the dugout with that poker face. His teammates however see Gayle for a longer period of time. They play, practice, travel and eat together. They know of a few things that the media or public will never know. De Villiers’ astonishment thus, was understandable. For a man with two Test triple centuries and the highest IPL score, 49 isn’t a ground-breaking score. Given the circumstances though, Gayle would have settled with it any day. When he did get that, Gayle was quick to thank people, especially Kohli and de Villiers, for their support during this low phase.
“It’s cricket. We as players know what’s required. You back someone when he’s not getting his actual performance going, and when he actually needs it as well. It’s basic stuff. You keep it simple as much as possible and play fearless cricket, keep stamping your authority. You may be a big player but sometime you need a bit of reminder as well how good you are. There have always been ups and downs in cricket and life as well. You just try to be reborn as quickly as possible,” said Gayle, clearly relieved after finally contributing to the team’s win.
When players start thinking on these lines, they become better teammates. When teammates start watching out for each other, it becomes more than just a game for them. Gayle may have acted cool through his lean patch but he was also probably the most concerned about it, desperate not to let his captain and friend down every match.
Gayle also looked genuinely happy at Kohli breaking his long-standing IPL record of most runs in a season. Probably in the know of what keeps Kohli ticking match after match, Gayle warns of more runs. “With two more games, maybe he can get close to 1000 runs. Who knows, if we make the playoffs,” he said.
To Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers are Batman and Superman. Together, they have been nothing short of genius. They have accepted the mediocrity of their bowling and hence the extra effort with the bat. The job’s half done. But they look good to go the whole distance.